What Are Consumers Willing To Pay For Ad-Free TV Content?

A recent survey of U.S. adults found that when it comes to subscription fees for ad-free television content — whether through streaming or traditional cable or satellite — $21.30 is on average considered a “great value,” and $36.70 is the ceiling at which they would draw the line at subscribing. 

The survey was conducted by Engine Insights, on behalf of Engine Media Solutions, among a sample of 1,003 adults 18 and older. The online omnibus study is conducted three times a week among a sample of 1,000 adults weighted to be demographically representative of the U.S. 18+ population per U.S. Census data on age, sex, geographic characteristics, race and education. 

The poll also found smart TVs to be the device most used to stream or otherwise watch TV, cited by 39%, compared to 35% for cable TV, 27% for Roku, 20% for Amazon Fire TV, 19% for YouTube TV, 15% for satellite TV, 13% for connected game consoles, 11% for broadcast using an antenna, 10% each for Apple TV and Blu-ray players, and 8% for Google Chromecast. 



Asked whether their TV consumption was greater, less or the same as in the previous month, 46% said the same, and 23% each said “much” more and “somewhat” more. Only 5% said it was somewhat less, and 3% said it was much less. 

On average, the respondents reported watching 6.2 hours of TV per day on weekdays and 6.8 hours per day on weekends. Boomers reported the highest levels (7 hours on weekdays and 7.3 on weekends) and Gen Z the lowest levels (4.8 on weekdays and 5.5 on weekends). 

Not surprisingly, asked what TV subscription services they have and what percentages of their total TV watching is on those services, Netflix emerged on top. Nearly two-thirds (64%) said they subscribe to Netflix, and on average, they spend 45% of total TV time watching that service. 

Other leaders were Amazon Prime Video (47% subscribe, 26% of TV watch time); Hulu (41% and 28%); Disney+ (32% and 19%); and YouTube TV (15% and 29%). Cable TV was cited by 26%, with a 62% of watch-time average. 

Content-wise, comedies, dramas, mysteries/crime shows and action/adventure shows were the types most cited as being watched during the past month. More than half (52%) of boomers reported having watched news, versus 21% of Millennials and just 11% of Gen Zs. 

And while a number of free, ad-supported streaming services are being careful to limit advertising to avoid alienating users, this survey may hint that tolerance levels could be fairly high among a sizable portion of U.S. adults. 

When respondents who reported using smart TVs, apps, game consoles or other devices (excluding cable/satellite) were asked about their advertising tolerance, 25% said that during programming they stream for free, they would consider eight to 10 ads within a 60-minute show to be acceptable, and 17% said that five ads would be acceptable. 

Between 10% and 12% said that two, three or four ads would be acceptable, and 8% actually indicated that more than 20 ads would be OK. 

But don’t get too excited just yet: No ad length was specified in that speculative question.

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